ANZAC Day

Military medals on display for ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC Day, (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). For Australians and New Zealanders, it is a day of commemoration. Originating in 1916 after a bungled skirmish at Gallipoli, ANZAC Day has waxed and waned. The ANZAC part of ANZAC Day fell out of favour for a while. People certainly took full advantage of the public holiday, especially if it lined up with the weekend to create a long one. Two-up turned pubs and RSLs (Returned Services Leagues clubs) into noisy gambling dens. In contrast, the serious, non-drinking part of the day – the commemorative services and street marches, were mostly attended by old folk who had actually fought in wars. Veterans of the two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Timor etc etc etc. Too many “etcs”, unfortunately. Crowd numbers were fleshed out by school kids, marching bands (who actually got a legitimate gig) and service clubs like the Lions or Rotary. The spirit of ANZAC was too ghostly, too irrelevant and too war-like to reach the “man-on-the-street”.

Times they are a-changing.

Over the last decade, things have begun to turn around, especially since the centenary celebrations in 2015 – 2018. Age has certainly wearied the troops. There are no WW1 vets left to march, the youngest WW2 service people would be 95 at least, those from Vietnam close to 80. As the number of these older people dwindles they are replaced by a smaller number of people who have been involved in more recent conflicts. Conversely, the audience of non-Vets has swollen dramatically, many wearing the medals of their grandparents or perhaps even their great grandparents. In country towns like Armidale, there is still a parade that will close off the main street for an hour or so. There will be people cheering and waving – remembering.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service

This morning I got up before dawn to attend the Dawn Service at Central Park, Armidale. I donned my orange SES (State Emergency Sevice) kit and headed out into the violet morning. The eastern border of the sky was just beginning to lighten as the crowd assembled around the memorial fountain. Rainbow lorikeets were making a racket in the trees, and people spoke quietly in small groups.

I estimated the crowd to be around 1500. There was the usual contingent of old fellows in suits or uniforms with their medals shining, chatting with their friends. For the most part, the remainder of the crowd consisted of families with kids and groups of young adults.

The Service, while not religious per se, follows a very set sermon-like formula. The catafalque party marches in first and stands at ease close to the memorial, this is followed by a couple of short readings and messages from various ex-service people. Next comes the Ode, which includes a call and response from the crowd. People then lay wreaths at the memorial, followed by the rouse and Last Post from a bugler, a minutes silence (or in the case of the Dawn Service a two-minute silence) which is broken by the Reveille. The Australian and New Zealand flags are raised from half-mast. Last but not least, comes the National Anthem. Not many people sing. The crowd disperses, no doubt some straight to the RSL for the aforementioned games of two-up.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon

Calls for peace

The focus of ANZAC Day is war. The speeches call for peace. Today, the Reverend who gave a short homily, asked God to help people turn their hearts to community and not conflict. The RSL President hoped that we would cease to need war. The crowd agreed. Perhaps some people, like me, were thinking of the needless conflict in Ukraine. I don’t understand wars and why we need them still (why we ever needed them).

My thoughts have turned to George Orwell’s 1984 and the continuous war which kept the lower classes in a state of anxiety and distress and blinded them to the motives of the ruling elites. Is that what is happening now?

Peace be with you people of the world and especially to those in Russia and Ukraine. We shouldn’t be waiting for God to turn our hearts to community.


The images in this post were taken in Broken Hill in 2014

Furious Fiction 26 – March 2022

Furious Fiction banner

From Monthly to Quarterly

Last month I reported that the Australian Writers Centre’s Furious Fiction competition had been changed from monthly to quarterly. It would seem Furious Fiction has been a victim of its own success and although I’m disappointed I don’t have my monthly dose of fiction writing, I’m not surprised. Given there was no entry fee it would have been an unsustainable process. With so many entries and a tight turn around on results they must have had a veritable army of readers. That and the $500 prize money would have had the bean counters sweating!

Frankie is revived!

Over the course of 2020-21, I entered a number of stories based on my character Frankie the Flamboyant Dresser. I decided that rather than making a new story arc every month I would try to use the given prompts to progress Frankie’s story. Sometimes it was easy and sometimes it wasn’t! Although the entries jump around Frankie’s timeline, the story began to gel and I had a sketchy plot scribbled in my journal. Sometimes I had to go forward, and other times backward to make use of the prompts. If you read them in chronological order the continuity suffers terribly but if you reorder them the plot certainly thickens. Set in a post-Covid dystopia where coloured clothing is banned and the Ultra Conservative Party is led by corrupt and despotic hypocrites, Frankie defies the ban by wearing sequins and fur. He eventually teams up with a group of judges and lawyers who are planning to overthrow the government.

While it tipped into dark themes in some episodes it was generally meant to be light-hearted and hopefully humourous. Each story might not make sense as a stand alone piece, as I was trying to get to the end of Frankie’s journey. I lost interest in Frankie and went off on a different tangent for most of 2021 but this year, he’s back!

Prompts for March

The prompts for this quarter were:

  1. Your story must include a character that commits a crime.
  2. Your story must include some kind of DOOR being opened.
  3. Your story must include the words CHALK, TALK and FORK.

These prompts seem to be created especially for me! The two last lines of my most recent Frankie story were:

In that nanosecond,  O’Mallory had to choose between going over the bonnet or under the wheels; either way, it wouldn’t end well for him.  

As he soared over the bonnet, he looked back to see the door open and saw …

Furious Fiction Jan 2021

It’s a sign!! Did the competition judges want to know what happened to Frankie and his co-conspirators? I think they did, so I obliged! For context, Tom is an investigative journalist helping O’Mallory, who is one of the judges.


Long Live the Judge!

In that nanosecond, O’Mallory had to choose between going over the bonnet or under the wheels; either way, it wouldn’t end well for him. As he soared over the bonnet he looked back to see the car door open and a flash of a long elegant leg with red patent stilettos.

The impact of his skull against the bitumen prevented him from seeing the owner of the shoes but, he would not have been surprised.  As the Honourable Karen Brooks stood up, she motioned to her companion;

 “Clean that up will you Tom?” 

She stepped gingerly around the mangled frame of the bicycle. The red of O’Mallory’s blood was a full tone deeper than her shoes. “She’d like a pair that colour,” she thought. 

“Come along, Tom. Don’t let a little blood put you off. Or are you all talk and no action? Chop-chop! Bundle him up and put him in the boot! ” 

Tom faltered. He had never seen a dead body before. Or more pertinently the body of a friend whose death could be fairly pegged on him.

O’Mallory was his partner in sedition. Their plan to overthrow a corrupt government had bonded them together in a dangerous game. Now, here was his judge, in a tangled oozing pile of brains and metal.

“Oh come on Tom!  Chalk it up to experience. One dead judge? Who cares? We won’t need any of his kind soon.”

This was a fork in the road for Tom. Should he blow his cover or dig himself in deeper? 

He already had enough evidence to derail the Ultra Conservative Party and the festering sleazy politicians who ran it. Their post-Pandemic restructure had taken the country down some very dark alleys, quite literally. Brooks herself was responsible for the drafting of the Fashion Laws. The laws which made coloured clothing illegal. The same laws which put all clothing sales in the hands of the Party and filled its Ministers’ private purses. 

As he watched Brooks circling the body still wearing her finery from the night before, Tom made up his mind. 

“Give me your coat,” he asked, “and the keys.”

She hesitated.  “Do you want blood in the boot? I’ll wrap up his head.” he said, “and grab his feet, he’s bloody heavy”. 

She hesitated, but the curtains had begun to flitter in the windows as curious eyes watched. 

With O’Mallory safely in the boot, Tom lept in behind the wheel and sped off, leaving Brooks behind. He kept his eyes on the mirror and laughed as he saw her face contorting with rage and fear. He could only imagine what story she was spinning to the people in their dull regulation grey flannel pyjamas as they stared at her blood-soaked silver lamé. As he turned the corner he thought he saw a red shoe fly through the air, but he couldn’t be certain. 

“We got her, O’Mallory. We got her!” he chortled. 


Frankie’s Furious Fiction story so far

If you are interested in reading about Frankie’s story so far you can follow this sequence. There are no smooth transitions from one episode to another and there is considerable repetition of plot points to make each story make some contextual sense in a stand alone form. Don’t be a continuity judge – the plot is full of holes but heh, maybe one day I will spruce it up and turn it into a novella! (Although I think it would better as a screenplay.)

  1. Furious Fiction 10 April 2020 – Frankie leaves home and meets George
  2. Furious Fiction 14 – August 2020 – Frankie and George get drunk in the desert
  3. Short Fiction – Frankie and George get to Broome. This one was not actually entered into the competition but I wrote it in September 2020.
  4. Furious Fiction 9 – March 2020 – Frankie gets arrested
  5. Furious Fiction 8 – February 2020 – Frankie on remand
  6. Furious Fiction 11 – May 2020 – Frankie gets sentenced by O’Mallory. Andrea doubts her commitment to the UCP
  7. Furious Fiction 12 – June 2020 – The UCP
  8. Furious Fiction 16 – October 2020 – The plot for revolution unfolds
  9. Furious Fiction 17 – November 2020 – Frankie meets O’Mallory
  10. Furious Fiction 18 – December 2020 – Frankie spills the beans
  11. Furious Fiction 19 – January 2021 – O’Mallory meets the politician.
  12. Furious Fiction 26 – This post. March 2022

Floods and fires

The eastern coast of Australia has been on the wrong side of nature’s umbrella since the beginning of the year. The drought that had given us the tinder box which ignited into devastating bushfires in the Black Summer of 2019-20 was replaced by floods of near biblical proportions in March 2022.

Communities in the very south of Queensland and the far north coast of NSW (Big River Country) have been inundated by record breaking floods. Further south, areas around Sydney and Wollongong were also lashed by the East Coast Low – a quaint term for a cyclone-like event that occurs south of the areas cyclones are supposed to stick to.

Waiting to be rescued

My new town of Armidale was not affected by flood. The thirsty paddocks around here soaked up the welcome rain. It got a bit boggy but given nearly everywhere is downhill from Armidale, there is no risk of widespread flooding. Not so for the residents of towns like Lismore and Woodburn. The news was filled with heartbreaking images of families huddled on the roof of their two story homes with water lapping at the gutters waiting their turn to be rescued. Some of them waited for days. The demand for rescues exceeded the capacity of the emergency services and everyone with a “tinny” (a small aluminium boat) joined the effort to deposit soggy, hungry people on drier land.

The rains continue

A month later when recovery efforts were well underway, and widespread tidying up in full swing, another East Coast Low dumped more rain. Less than the previous event but because the ground was already sodden it did not take much to over top the levee again and people were evacuated for a second time. This time there were few rooftop rescues, mainly because those families were yet to return to their homes and because of swift enforcement of evacuation orders. 

Lismore’s future

Flood is a frequent visitor to Lismore. There is a levee around the town which is meant to protect them but this year the flood was a full 2 metres past previous records. Climate change? Probably.

I listened to an interview many years ago, when another bad flooding event had submerged the town. When the ABC reporter asked the hydrologist what could be done to protect the town, she drew a sharp breath and said “Move it”.

Move the whole darn town. Sounds crazy but not that crazy. With the the millions of dollars that are spent in fixing things after flood every couple of years, it seems like a good long term strategy. When you add in the personal cost, the trauma; the loss of household “stuff” and the fatalities, it seems like an even better idea.

Will it happen? Probably not.

I wouldn’t like to be trying to insure my home there though.

Here to help.

I am here in the disaster zone, helping out as an SES volunteer. My role is a small one. Working in the “back room” logistical side of things at an airbase. The helicopters are busy dropping food and supplies to people and animals. Today I helped load a chopper with sleeping bags and air mattresses for people still stuck in an evacuation centre.

I’m not getting wet and I’m not getting dirty, but I’m here and doing my bit. Just like hundreds of others of my orange colleagues and those from other agencies like the Rural Fire Service, the Police, the Defence Force and NSW Fire and Rescue. Some get paid, but for others (like the SES and RFS) this is a labour of love. For me it’s all part of my personal strategy to improve my life. Volunteering is one of the things that contribute to your own positive mental health and happiness.

Remember this!

To get here, I drove through the towns worst hit by this 1 in 1000 year flood. The scene was horrific. I found it hard to keep driving. I wanted to leap from the car and help the family I saw sweeping mud from their home. I wanted to hold the hose for the firies (fire fighters) who were sluicing out the shops. I wanted to take photos of the mud on the roofs, the caravans tipped sideways; the cars randomly wedged against trees; the bits of furniture stuck in the branches 10 metres above the ground. The piles of books and furniture stacked outside on the street waiting for collection. I wanted to record and share it all. But that seemed disrespectful. Disaster tourism. It didn’t seem right.

Or is it a chance to share an historic moment in time when Australians once again pulled together to help a community in trouble. A time when we decided climate change was here, and now.

Fellow Australians, It’s only a few weeks out from an election. Remember this. Which party has our long term interests at heart? The planet’s?

Remember that handshake during the fires? Where is he now?


There are no photos for this post. Maybe I’ll take some on the way home.